I got to spend a day in Brooklyn this week. Just the one day, and though it was for work, I found myself with enough time to wander off and get my hands on some mighty tasty food.
77 Hoyt St, Brooklyn, NY
I started out the Little Sweet Café, which is, in fact, a little, sweet café. Seats 8, maybe 10 if you’re under 5, as were many of the patrons. This is a Neighborhood Place. Allow me to illustrate:
- As we walked in, the man (young, beard, fleece) sitting at the table nearest to the counter was pulling out his wallet to pay. He found he had only a few dollars cash and said to the one-man-show running the place, “hey man, I don’t have any cash – I’ll just pay with a credit card” to which one-man-show replied “nah, don’t worry about, you pay me tomorrow.”
- Just after we sat down it started to fill up, which is to say, two moms, kids in tow, came in. They knew each other. That was not the impressive thing. The impressive thing was that one-man-show quickly deposited a slice in of almond brioche in front of the kid at the table next to us saying “it was my last piece – I didn’t want you to go without”
Little Sweet does three things – coffee, pastries, and crepes. Each was good. Not earth shattering, toe curling good, but really solidly legit stuff. I had the almond brioche (the second-to-the-last piece, apparently) and it was light and eggy, sweet without being syrupy. My coworker (both of us beardless and in sport coats, looking very clearly like intruders) had a crepe – simple and hearty, full of fresh veggies and nicely wilted spinach. Flavor in everything was understated and simple.
85 Dean St, Brooklyn, NY
My next stop was at Blue Bottle. I know, I know, Blue Bottle belongs on the West Coast, but I knew they had come in pretty full force to Brooklyn and it was only a few blocks from my hotel. The pour over was amazing – just their house blend, but tons of bright flavor – the paper cup was a drag, but even in the paper notes of cinnamon and balsa wood came through beautifully. The latte (I was getting a little wired by this point, but I had to give it a go) was silky and beautiful, but didn’t have the same oomph as the coffee.
409 Fulton St, Brooklyn, NY
Lunch was Shake Shack. Since they’re coming to Austin next month I thought I’d give them a whirl. I had modest expectations. It exceeded them. The burger had a nice crumble to it, the bun was a little sweet and exquisitely squishy, the special sauce (I never get special sauce, but I figured I should do it like it was supposed to be done) was actually amazing. I have no idea what it was, but it was sharp and creamy at the same time and did a great job tying it all together. The fries were OK. On the Austin scale, I put it ahead of Mighty Fine and behind Hop Doddy. Worth a visit, not worth a long wait in line.
298 Atlantic Ave, Brooklyn, NY
Dinner was Sotto Casa. I’m kicking myself for not taking a photo while I was there, but the pictures on the site do not exaggerate. So much like Little Sweet, this was neighborhood through and through, full of kids, and unflinchingly European. There are half a dozen salads and maybe 15 different pizzas. Pizzas are all super thin crust, maybe 14 inches, enough for 2, especially if you get a salad. The food was phenomenal, with kind of clarity of flavor you get from ultra-simple recipes. The salad was arugula dressed with salt, olive oil and lemon. The pizza was eggplant, tomato, fresh mozzarella. It was real food, unadorned, beautiful.
Food in New York is omnipresent. I could have done this routine for a month and had a different cup of coffee each day, a different breakfast, a different little hole in the wall Italian place. I love NY.